On the History of Poverty and Solidarity: The Precarious Berlin Walking Tour with Stefan Zollhauser by Kaléa Daniels and Italia Alexandria Bella’-Victoria Rodriguez Quintana

Kaléa Daniels

Now part of the administrative district of Mitte, Wedding, a former “legendary worker’s district,” has origins in poverty that is present today. At the start of the 20th century, Wedding was in a disadvantageous spot. It was an early recipient of what is now familiar to people as environmental discrimination. The powerful winds of Berlin made Wedding the victim of air pollution from developed factories. Impoverished workers of this period were afforded some convenience, but mostly for their employer’s benefit. The S-Bahn rail system ran from Wedding to respected factories around Berlin. In other cases, workers lived directly next to what is known as workspaces that consisted of significantly large windows that allowed lots of natural light to enter and increased work efficiency that demanded detailed precision. However, the living conditions of the working class at the beginning of the 20th century were inhumane. Their apartments were dark, cluttered, extremely cold, and humid, and lack of regulations bred enormous amounts of mold. Here, the government health insurance department began to vividly document these living and health conditions, resulting in advocacy to the German State for change. These boxes of poison that were considered homes doubled as workplaces for some women. For poor women during this age, they worked multiple jobs, similar to the role women traditionally play. Women were expected to raise children and upkeep their residency. The work most frequently available to them was sewing, creating textiles, and cigarette making.   Women’s labor was not acknowledged by the State. Consequently, they were  often underpaid, without inspections, regulations, and most importantly unable to collect and save pensions. Despite working three jobs for more than half the day, the working women of Wedding in the early 20th century exemplified resistance through sisterhood by banding together and participating in one of the earliest well-known waves of feminism: The Suffrage  Movement.  Many thanks to Stefan Zollhauser.

Kaléa Daniels is a senior Studio Art major attending Colorado College from Hollis, New York. They are an Afrofuturist artist with a focus on sculpture who operates through her art as a window of healing. Kaléa is inspired by reparation work, funk, and soul music. In his free time, Kaléa enjoys reading, dancing, and designing.

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Italia Alexandria Bella’-Victoria Rodriguez Quintana (left) with Nova Yu (right)

On Thursday, we went on the Precarious Berlin: On the History of Poverty & Solidarity walking tour with Stefan Zollhauser. This tour covered the reaction to poverty in Wedding, Berlin and the effects of industrialism on housing accessibility. We explored the criminalization of poverty through laws against “begging” and joblessness. Poverty creates separation between economic classes that segregates people by class, and is reinforced by race. For example, in “From Kreuzberg to Marzahn: New Migrant Communities in Berlin,” Wolfgang Kil and Hilary Silver cite how primary waves of migrants like Turks, Kurds, Poles, and Southern Europeans lived in neighborhoods like Wedding, Kreuzberg, and Neukölln. Additionally, migrants from Russia, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Africa, and the Arab world received neglect from federal systems to assist in the poverty they endured within Berlin. Poverty and industrialism are often linked in their relationship to classism, as people are forced to live in neighborhoods with increased pollution and factory production. In Wedding, houseless peoples were often forced into factory labor with minimal or no wages. This often included 12-hour shifts for 6 days a week with up to hour-long walking commutes to workplaces. The housing in Wedding was distinguished by architecture that lacked windows, leading to almost full-time darkness, molded walls, and soot on ceilings. This tour impacted my understanding of marginalization within Berlin by showing how construction of race and social class has left intergenerational impacts. Wealth disparity in Berlin is both apparent and subtle, where observations of poverty within the U.S. can be utilized to analyze neighborhoods and their treatment of houseless people. The frameworks of this class examine the role of globalization and constructions of race and gender as inseparable from their contributions to impoverishment, while also defining how marginalized groups adopt methods of resistance to survive oppression.

Italia Alexandria Bella’-Victoria Rodriguez Quintana is a Xicana from South Denver, Colorado. Her name seems long, but it represents her and her mom’s shared interest in paying homage to the people who made her. Italia is a Romance Languages major with minors in Political Science and Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies. Her study of linguistics allows her to explore history and culture through personal narratives, serving as a method of decolonization of the self. She enjoys reading feminist theory, Instagram reels, thinking|pondering, weightlifting, and reviewing food w| her bestie on @latinayumtinas.

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4 thoughts on “On the History of Poverty and Solidarity: The Precarious Berlin Walking Tour with Stefan Zollhauser by Kaléa Daniels and Italia Alexandria Bella’-Victoria Rodriguez Quintana

  1. Kate says:

    Hi, this seems very powerful. My friend and I are in Berlin and interested in participating in this same tour. I am having trouble finding it online, is it through the university? Is there a way for us to contact the person who provided the tour?

    Thank you for any help, what a wonderful group.

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